Tag Archive for flv

Sharing 340 Flip videos?

I am spending a little bit of time trying to find a way to convert Flip video files into QuickTime or FLV format for posting on our web sites. This is not really a how-to guide, but rather a snapshot into my (limited) progress with this task at this moment in time. Perhaps I will make more progress later, or one of you fine readers will post a comment detailing a more helpful solution!

Our seniors spent a morning at the pumpkin patch with their first grade buddies and took twelve Flip Mino video cameras with them. They captured 340 video segments!

video files

How may I produce one or more useful movies from these using the least possible effort? I don’t want to simply post the videos directly to a site like YouTube, because some of the content is likely to be private or exceed their posting limits. I also don’t want to require teachers to create YouTube accounts just to facilitate this conversion process.

Flip records in AVI format using 3ivx compression. If we go to QuickTime, we will want to convert into MOV format using H.264 compression. If we choose Flash video, then we will convert into FLV format (what does Adobe call their compression codec?).

Two issues are making this process more difficult for video than for audio. For one, Adobe and Apple can’t seem to get along — neither QuickTime nor iMovie has a FLV export feature, and I’m not about to insist that all of our teachers and students own a full copy of Flash to do this work. While some people suggest FilmRedux (formerly VisualHub) or FFMpegX, I have found these applications either too arcane for the average user or incompatible with either the import or export portions of this process. Is it possible that VisualHub used to have FLV export, but the SourceForge hosted version lacks that component?

QT Amateur (converted files but can’t handle nested folders)

FilmRedux (wouldn’t read 3ivx AVI or m4v files)

FFMPEGX (too many dependencies to foist on our users)

iMovie (successfully reads 3ivx files, allowing users to edit first)

QTAmateur looked to be a good option to batch convert the files into a usable format before starting editing work, but then I found that it took a long time to convert files in QuickTime format, and QTAmateur was not able to reach into subfolders to convert files located in there. Since I have twelve cameras, many files have the same name and must be stored in subfolders as a result.

Good news: iMovie ’08 can use the video files straight from the Flip camera, once I have installed the 3ivx decoder that comes with the Flip (the software is stored within the camera memory). Given this, it may work best to do all of the clip selection and editing work in iMovie and postpone the task of format conversion to the end. This way, we are applying the time-intensive task of format conversion to the shortest length and fewest possible number of clips.

It will then be simple for a teacher or student to use iMovie’s built-in Share tools to export to QuickTime, YouTube, or iPhone.

share menu

What about posting a FLV file to one’s own web site? I don’t see a straightforward way to do this that would be easy for other users to follow. If it has become difficult to build FLV conversion into desktop software, then let’s push that task to the web site software, as YouTube does. This way, we won’t burden users with that problem.

Drupal may fulfill the role of YouTube in this case. I will have to remind myself what modules provide on-the-fly conversion of uploaded files to FLV (Video, FlashVideo, FFMPEG wrapper, what others?).

Windows users may have more options.

3D Cell Explorer

solute pump

Today, I launch a new site, 3D Cell Explorer, a teaching tool for cell biology using visual representation. It provides 40 animations of cellular structures and processes, accompanied by audio narration. Anyone may comment on a page or copy the embed code to display animations on one’s own web site.

Many students learn best from what they can see — visual learners often struggle in science classes in which the vast majority of instruction is text-based. This site complements the textual materials an individual may already have. Text is kept to a minimum, so as to not distract from one’s attention to the visual model. Three of the animations provide a simple level of interactivity.

The site is pretty much Web 1.0 — lots of good content ready for consumption. The learning theory is primarily cognitivist. I want to help students of cell biology better comprehend basic cellular processes. Still, I did throw in a little Web 2.0 goodness. Comments are enabled on all pages, making it possible for visitors to start a dialogue about the animations. Providing the embed code allows teachers (or students) to integrate the animations into their own teaching materials, for example on a Moodle site or other CMS.

In 1994, I began to create simple 3D animations to help explain biological and chemical processes to my students. Over the following three years, I created dozens, especially on the topic of cell biology. A colleague and I decided to package the cell biology animations on a CD-ROM, but by 1997, CD-ROMs were no longer so popular. Although I did ultimately release the package, it never caught on, as teachers moved toward web-based instructional content.

In our enthusiasm to embrace Web 2.0 tools, we have left behind some of the strengths of the CD-ROM era: visual richness, simulations, interaction with content, and vast, visual libraries. I of course love the ease of distribution and social qualities of Web 2.0, but we must not discard the successful educational innovations of the past in our rush toward the future.

After a ten-year hiatus, I am pleased to re-introduce 3D Cell Explorer. Please do let me know what works and what doesn’t, and do spread the word to potentially interested teachers.

Here are some brief technical notes.

I created the original animations using Strata StudioPro and Adobe (Macromedia) Director. The project was saved by the continued support for Director by Macromedia and then Adobe. Director was the standard for authoring interactive media, but like CD-ROMs, it quietly disappeared as Flash produced smaller, faster-loading web files. I don’t know whether the new Strata3D can read my old StudioPro files. It would be good to preserve the time and effort I put into those models and animations.

To make the project more web-friendly, I exported all of the old Director files to QuickTime and then used VisualHub to make them into Flash Video (FLV) files. I kept the three interactive animations in Director format using the built-in Shockwave converter. I installed Drupal 6 for the content management platform and then built out a page for each animation. The Amadou theme gave the site a clean, modern look — I changed the background to black in order to match the animation backgrounds. I used JW FLV Media Player to deliver the Flash video files.

Ten years ago, I was amazed that an ordinary classroom teacher could access great-quality 3D animation tools. Still, it took three years of evening and weekends to produce these 40 animations. Today, I find it incredible that I could convert the entire thing to a web-based format in about two days’ time. Experiences like this provide a visceral reminder of the exponential increases in computing power over time.

Update March 31, 2008

I came across this very modern cell visualization from Harvard — quite interesting that it’s set to music.